olive trees not growing or producing new leaves

Olive Trees Not Growing or Producing New Leaves?

I get many questions from my Oliviada blog readers about what to do when olive trees not growing or producing new leaves. I understand it may be pretty worrying when you see your olive tree dropping leaves but don’t show any sign of them growing back. For this reason, here is what I learned from my solid olive tree grower’s experience and can share with you why olive trees not growing or producing new leaves.

If an olive tree is not growing or producing new leaves, the tree is most likely going through a state of dormancy or can be affected by the lack of sunlight or nutrients. If your olive tree isn’t growing, it’s best to observe and wait one full season before changing its environment or growing conditions.

So, while olive trees can become dormant and pause their growth for a season, is there anything we can do about this? Also, how do you know if your olive tree isn’t growing from a lack of sunlight or nutrients? Let’s take a further look.

Why Olive Trees Don’t Grow or Produce New Leaves

Olive Tree Is Dormant

The most common reason why olive trees don’t show signs of new growth is due to dormancy. While olive trees are evergreen and never lose leaves in the fall, they do go into a state of dormancy to conserve some nutrients. So, if it’s currently late fall or winter, and you haven’t noticed new growth or leaves on your olive tree, try waiting until springtime. Also, check my article about the olive tree growth cycle to learn how an olive tree grows and when.

Another reason why your olive tree could be dormant is if you’ve recently planted or repotted it. Generally, olive trees need at least several months to establish a new root system and get adjusted to their new environment. If you’ve recently planted or potted your olive tree, then consider waiting for another season before changing anything.

It’s also best not to disturb the olive tree any further during this time, so hold off on amending the soil, repotting, or heavily fertilizing.

olive tree needs fullday sunlight to thrive
Olive tree needs full day direct sunlight, proper watering and nutrients to grow steadily and bear fruits

Lack of Sunlight

A lack of sunlight could also cause olive trees to have little to no growth. Olive trees do best with at least 6 – 8 hours of direct sunlight per day, but 12 hours or more is ideal. So if your olive tree is shaded too much or is indoors, there’s a chance its limited sunlight is stunting it.

For best results, plant your olive tree in your backyard that has at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. The morning sun is best, but the afternoon sun works nicely too (for context, our productive olive trees growing on a hill in the Kalamata region had direct sunlight from 6 am up to 2 pm, then the sun is hidden behind the hill).

If your olive tree is an indoor plant, consider moving it to a southern-facing window that has most of the sun. If your windows don’t let in much sunlight or you live in a colder climate, then consider getting a grow light for your olive tree. Keep in mind that grow lights aren’t as efficient as natural sunlight, so you’ll likely need to provide the olive tree with light 2-3 times longer (12-18 hours), depending on the type and spectrum.

do indoor olive trees need direct sunlight
Read more about direct sunlight for olive trees indoors

Lack of Nutrients

Olive trees during the growth stage use lot of nutrients, and especially—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (known as “NPK”). If you aren’t yet aware, these are the three main nutrients that most fruit trees and other plants require.

Just about every fertilizer will contain sufficient NPK, along with trace nutrients, but the best fertilizer for olive trees is specially balanced for olives or with an NPK of 10:1:1.

For more information about nutrients and olive tree fertilizer, you can check out my comprehensive guide on the best fertilizer for olive trees in pots.  

Keep in mind that olive trees also need a balanced soil pH to properly absorb nutrients. If the soil’s pH is imbalanced, the olive tree will be unable to use many of the nutrients (which means your fertilizer will likely go to waste).

Olive trees prefer a slightly acidic soil pH of 6 – 8. If the pH is highly above or under this, then your olive tree likely has an issue with its nutrients.

An easy way to measure the soil pH of your olive tree is with pH strips or a pH meter. I personally prefer using a pH meter since it’s affordable and easy to use and you can buy it online.

best soil for olive trees in pots
Read more about the best soil for olive trees in pots

Insufficient Watering

Olive trees can look weak and not grow properly because of an insufficient amount of water. If the soil doesn’t retain water that dries out fast in the sun, it’s a big change that your olive tree is suffering from underwatering. In this case, try to repot olive tree or use an irrigation system.

On another hand, frequent watering can cause overwatering following with root rot. Check out my article about olive tree overwatering symptoms and how to fix it.

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Potted Olive Tree Deep Watering Method

To maintain a continues growth and healthy tree, I recommend to establish a proper watering habits for your olive tree and use a deep watering method (see in attached video).

olive tree leaves start dropping when lack of water
Olive tree leaves are the great indication when tree doesnt like something. So regularly observe your tree

Why Olive Trees Lose Leaves

Unfortunately, sometimes olive tree doesn’t have new growth and loses its current leaves. Compared to just a lack of growth, the reasons for olive leaf loss are typically a bit more serious and require a slightly different approach.

The most common why olive trees losing leaves is due to an under or overwatering that may result in root rot. Another common reason why olive trees can start shedding leaves is due to an over or under abundance of nutrients. Also, the overall olive tree health and leave response can be impacted by environmental changes, pests, and diseases.

More about olive trees dropping leaves and their prevention mechanisms, make sure to check out my recent complete guide: Why Olive Tree Dropping Leaves? Reasons/Cures/Prevention

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Generic FAQs

Will Leaves Grow Back on Olive Trees?

Olive trees will grow new leaves, as long as the tree is not in a state of dormancy or stress. The dormancy period usually happens in the late fall and winter, so wait until spring to confirm any new growth of your olive trees. To correct any stress your olive tree may have, check its sunlight, water, and nutrient levels.

Are Olive Trees Slow Growing?

Yes, olive trees are slow growing comparing to other evergreen trees. Depending on olive variety, the growth rate may differ. For context, dwarf olive trees in pots or containers growing much slower than the Koroneiki olive tree planted in ground.

Do Olive Trees Go Dormant?

Yes, olive trees go dormant with lower tempreture during winter season. Dormancy and cold is needed for proper olive tree flowering and fruit bearing. If olive trees grow in a climate with constant warm tempreture year round (i.e. tropical climate), they barely flower and fruit.

Final Thoughts

In most cases, if your olive trees not growing or producing new leaves, they are dormant or under stress which may result in the loss of olive fruit and flowers, followed by leaves. The first step to the full recovery is to make sure your olive tree receiving the proper sunlight, water, and nutrients (see above for more information on these).

If all of these main needs are met, then your olive tree should improve. However, stay patient, it may take at least a few months before you see any progress in olive tree growth.

Also, after reading this article if you still hesitating about why your potted olive tree not growing or producing leaves, check out my ultimate guide on problems with olive trees in pots.

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Learn more about why olive trees dropping leaves and how to fix it!

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